Editor's introduction.

Author:Ashton, Dianne

This issue of American Jewish History features four articles about moments of historical upheaval and change. We begin with Michael Hoberman's discussion of letters written by Jews in North America during the American Revolutionary War. While other historians have used such letters to explore the nature of Jewish communal life, family relationships, and religious and political alliances, among other topics, Hoberman uses them to reveal the way Jews coped with the war itself. The letters shine a light on the way their authors delicately balanced their emotional turmoil and even panic with an effort to achieve equanimity. American standards of proper public behavior changed because of the war, and displays of emotion came to indicate honesty. Hoberman's assessment of the emotional lives of Revolutionary-era Jews adds a new dimension to our understanding of that period.

Following Hoberman's article, we jump to the early twentieth century and Jeffrey Gurock's assessment of a 1915 article by Judah David Eisenstein in the Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. This landmark in the early history of the journal was the first to discuss the community of Jews from Eastern Europe that then dominated the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Previous articles--totaling 85--had aimed to document the long history of Jews in North America, along with their participation in the nation's founding and its significant events. More than a little filiopietistic, these early works avoided mentioning the new Jewish immigrants because their stories did not seem to fit the defensive political goals that energized the journal's leaders in its early years. Gurock's contribution to our new Signposts feature demonstrates how the journal's editorial board responded--or failed to respond--to the momentous change in American Jewish demographics...

To continue reading